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For the First Time: Sudanese Asylum Seeker Was Recognized as Refugee

Mutasim Ali, a leader of the asylum seeker community, is the first Sudanese national to be recognized as a refugee by the State of Israel. He requested asylum four years ago and spent 14 months at the Holot detention facility.

On June 23, 2016 the Interior Ministry informed Ali’s attorney, Asaf Weitzen from Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, that Interior Minister Aryeh Mahlouf Deri adopted the recommendation of professional bodies and granted Ali refugee status.

Mutasim Ali is a political activist and resident of the Darfur region in Sudan. In 2003 he left his village to study geology at Omdurman University, where he began to engage in political activity on behalf of the Darfur region. In 2005, while he was at the university, his village was burned down by militias supported by the government of Sudan and his parents fled to a refugee camp in northern Darfur, where they remain to this day. During his university studies Mutasim was a political activist in a movement that called for freeing Sudan. He organized and took part in civil non-violent protests, and distributed information about the situation in Sudan and the authorities’ treatment of Darfur residents, while calling for international intervention. As a result of his political activity he was arrested a number of times and detained without trial, held in isolation, and tortured. Following his last detention, he was compelled to flee Sudan.

He arrived in Israel in May 2009 and was jailed for several months. Since his release Mutasim tried to seek asylum, but the Interior Ministry repeatedly prevented him from doing so. In 2012 Mutasim filed the asylum request in accordance with Interior Ministry regulations, but was not summoned for an interview. In 2014, at around the time the state opened the Holot detention facility, Mutasim was told to report to the facility. Three administrative appeals and three appeals to the Supreme Court convinced the state to advance his asylum request and release him from Holot.

Now, seven years after he arrived in Israel, four years after he requested asylum, and after 14 months in the Holot detention facility, Mutasim has finally been recognized as the first Darfuri refugee in Israel, in accordance with the Refugee Convention.

“I thank the State of Israel that allowed me to be here over the years and accepted my asylum request. I promise that Israel will not regret this. I will continue to contribute to Israeli society and to the asylum seeker community in Israel. I intend to use the status that I was granted in order to improve the situation in Darfur, so that I will be able to return home safely when the time comes. I call on the Government of Israel and countries of the world to take action to end the bloodshed in Darfur and other regions in Sudan. Until then I will continue to work for the refugee community in Israel.”

“I praise the decision and the fact that there was no need for an additional trial in order to recognize Mutasim as a refugee,” Attorney Weitzen said. “This is very exciting, after all of the tribulations, after such an extended period of uncertainty and detention, and after countless legal proceedings – Mutasim has been granted the status that he deserves. I hope this is a harbinger.”

Click here for the report on the asylum policy for citizens of Eritrea and Sudan (2014)